Once you’ve gotten accepted to a college you want to attend, it’s time to explore your financial aid options. The good news is all colleges have a financial aid office specifically to help you. Their goal is to find a way to get you into their school, and they’ll help create a financial aid package for you to consider.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have work to do, or that you won’t be able to find other financial aid options that might suit you better. Don’t rely on a financial aid officer to do all of the work for you.
There are multiple sources of financial aid for college:
This can include aid for those serving in the military, or those who are the spouse or child of a military veteran. It also might include AmeriCorps (community service work for education funds) or special financial aid from the Department of Health and Human Services. Federal student aid might include:
Grants are funds given to you that you don’ have to repay under normal circumstances (you might have to repay if you drop out).
Loans are guaranteed and offered at a low interest rate. They’re also easy to defer when it’s time to repay them. The downside to these guaranteed student loans is that there is no way to get out of repaying them—even by declaring bankruptcy.
Work Study programs offer you money through work you do on campus. Schools might pay for resident advisors, teaching assistants, or other jobs that you can do to offset the cost of school. State Governments also offer grants for certain students. If you have especially high test scores, your high school guidance counselor should be able to help you apply for these grants. There’s also a state grant agency in your state you can contact. Find your state’s agency on this Department of Education web site.
You (or your parents) might be entitled to certain tax benefits for education spending, so bear in mind that this non-direct financial aid can still be a benefit.
Your College’s financial aid office
Like we mentioned above, will help connect you with financial aid specific to your college. Also check with the department you plan to major in, or the sport or other program you plan to participate in, as there may be scholarships for students seeking a specific degree.
Organizations in your area may offer scholarships or grants. Your school guidance counselor should have a list of such organizations. If you’ve done any volunteer work for community or church groups, find out if they have scholarships you can apply for.
A crucial part of the process of applying for financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which we will cover in the next section.